Steamboat Legion squad keep rolling in strong season

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2013 American Legion baseball schedule

— A strong summer of baseball by the Steamboat American Legion Post 44 squad got significantly sweeter Sunday when the squad wrapped up the championship of the Rangely Invitational.

The team charged through three Utah-based squads, then pounded regional foe Eagle Valley in the finals, relaying on a powerful pitching contingent to muscle its way to the trophy.

“The difference between what we’ve had in the past and this year is our pitching staff,” Steamboat coach Dave Roy said a day after a 10-0 win Sunday sealed up the championship.

Roy pointed to Rusty McRight, serving as the team’s pitching coach, as the instigator of the summer in which the team has built an 18-5 record and now sits on a six-game winning streak as it heads next weekend to a smaller tournament in Buena Vista.

Pitching certainly seemed to make the difference last weekend, especially in the finale. Eagle Valley opened the championship game by issuing five walks in the first inning. Steamboat turned that into five runs thanks in large part to five wild pitches, then tacked on five more runs in the second inning.

Jesse Pugh pitched for Steamboat, giving up only two hits on 58 pitches in five innings, when the mercy rule went into effect.

Pugh and John Stensvad each pitched three innings in the weekend’s first game, an 11-4 win against Vernal, Utah. Ryan Jeep then struck out 13 in the next game, a 3-2 win against Price, Utah.

Finally, Billy Clark picked up the win in a 17-1 rout against Moab, Utah.

“The kids are now more physically fit. They’re stronger. They’re more skilled. Their arsenal of pitches is deeper,” Roy said. ”They’re just better.”

Combined with plenty of timely hitting, that proved enough for Steamboat.

Charlie Fitzhugh, who joined Pugh and Jeep on the all-tournament team, had three of Steamboat’s 10 hits against Vernal. He also scored three runs.

Thomas Kelly notched an RBI early against Price, and Clark drove in another run. Clark then struck again, scoring on a Fitzhugh single in the bottom of the sixth to put Steamboat in front.

Against Moab, Pugh and Andrew McCawly each had three hits and three RBIs.

“We just cleaned house. I was so proud of the guys, the way they played every phase of the game, defense, base running, pitching,” Roy said. “We did it all, and every week we’re getting better.”

To reach Joel Reichenberger, call 970-871-4253 or email jreichenberger@SteamboatToday.com

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